Virgin Media, one of the UK’s leading providers of television / broadband / mobile / phone services, has announced plans to use deep packet inspection technology to track illegal file-sharing activity among around 40 percent of its UK network. Users whose activities are being monitored will not be informed of this fact.
The tech comes from Detica, a company better known for working with government data and intelligence agencies than media files and P2P networks. Their CView product is designed to help put an end to illegal filesharing, and with ISPs showing interest, it’s unlikely that Virgin’s deal will be the last we hear about.
In a lengthy document on illegal filesharing, Detica outlines how CView can be used to baseline the level of illicit filesharing then continue to measure the same activity as punitive measures are rolled out. The company believes that every ISP has an obligation to reduce illegal filesharing “by an agreed percentage over a period of time,” a goal that can only be achieved through accurate, thorough measurement of user activity – this is the very reason Detica created CView.
Beyond measuring user activity on P2P networks, CView will not collect data on individual users. Raw traffic data and identification information is reportedly deleted in the closed system and cannot be accessed by a human operator. CView gathers data on peer-to-peer packets in user traffic and then inspects the packets to see whether the content is being shared illegally.
Although the tech only examines aggregate traffic data, and although a Virgin spokeperson states that records will not be maintained on individual users, privacy concerns are right behind raining-on-our-parade concerns when one examines the question of monitoring user behavior. Isn’t warning, fining, censoring and/or restricting access for infringing users the next logical step?
Give us your doomsday scenario – or your vote of confidence for the Detica/Virgin partnership – in the comments.